Fortification Friday: In a “hollow formed by two eminences”? Reverse Defilement

Last week we discussed the defiling of an earthwork … as in planning, thence constructing, the works so as to intercept plunging fires from higher elevation.  This process of defilement was, while “not indispensable” in Mahan’s words, was highly recommended where terrain allowed an adversary to dominate the point of defense.

Where we left that lesson, Mahan advised to define a plane of defilement out to 1000 yards from the works – that being the extreme range of musketry and (at the time of writing) practical range of artillery.  We can easily place this into the “common sense” category… saying it just makes sense to pile dirt high enough that one is protected from the enemy’s guns.  Now that is a simple matter if the eminences are a dozen feet above the height of the works.  Real world scenarios are rarely that simple, as anyone who has visited … say… Harpers Ferry or Chattanooga or Pilot Knob might attest.  The nature of terrain at such key points often allowed for an enemy to fire on the flanks, rear, and interior of the works. Piling dirt higher is just not practical.  So what would the engineer do in response to such lofty heights?

When a work is placed in a hollow formed by two eminences, and is exposed to both a direct and reverse fire from them, it cannot be defiled by the means just explained, without giving it a relief generally too great for field works.  To avoid this the method of reverse defilement must be resorted to.

Consider the crudely copied illustration below:


The lunette is defined by A-B-C-D-E of Figure 16.  There are two eminences here – O and O’.  We see the flank A-B-C is open to direct fire from O, and can be hit in reverse from O’.  And the same can be said for flank C-D-E, transposing the respective high ground.

Looking at this problem from the profile of the works, cited as Figure 17:


This is where the engineer needed to do his “figuring.”  We see a vertical plane from O to O’ (orange lines, corresponding to the lines seen in Figure 16).  We have the parapets of two sides of the lunette depicted as A and B.  And follow the proper labeling of points here, mindful of upper and lower case letters.  Also for this first snip ignore the structure labeled C (as in capital C) as we evolve the solution:

If in this plane a vertical, a b, be drawn [brown line], corresponding to the capital of the work, and eight feet be set off on this vertical form the point a, and two verticals be drawn through the points O and O’, and five feet be set off on each of them [black lines]; and then the points c and c’ be joined with d [blue line], it is obvious that the interior crest of the parapet A, being placed on the line c d, will screen all the ground in the rear of it, as far as the capital, from direct fire from O.  The parapet B being regulated in a similar manner, will screen all the ground behind it as far as the same line.

Sounds good so far, but what about that reverse fire?

But the fire from O’ would take the parapet A in reverse, and that from O the parapet B; to prevent this, a covering mass, denominated a traverse, must be erected on the line of the capital, and a sufficient height be given to it to screen both A and B from a reverse fire. To effect this, let eighteen inches be set off the interior crests of A and B; the point e being joined with c’, and the point e’ with c; it is here also obvious, that if the top of the traverse be placed on the line c e’ [dashed green line], it will effectually screen both the parapets from all reverse fire; because every shot that strikes the top of it will pass at least eighteen inches above the two parapets, and since the banquettes are four feet three inches below the interior crests, the shot must pass five feet nine inches above the banquettes, which will be quite sufficient to clear the heads of the men when on the banquettes.  This illustration explains the spirit of the method of reverse defilement.

At this point in the engineering process, we’ve defined one particular needed to form that traverse, labeled C on the diagram.  However, that is still a far cry from actually determining the full nature of that traverse.  More measurements, observations, and planning was required to properly plan and place the traverse.  We’ll turn to that in the next installment.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 26-7.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Batteries from New Hampshire and New Jersey

Today we move back east for the summaries – New Hampshire and New Jersey.  In contrast to the messy Missouri entries, with gaps and questions to address, those lines for New Hampshire and New Jersey are relatively clean.

Between those two states, there were but three lines to consider.  New Hampshire provided one field battery for service during the war.  New Jersey would eventually provide five batteries, but as of December 1862 only two were in existence.  The New Hampshire battery is referenced as “the 1st”.  The New Jersey batteries are mentioned as both lettered and numbered batteries.  I’ll conform to the convention used in the summary statement here – lettered batteries.

Three easy entry lines to consult:


All batteries supporting the Army of the Potomac:

  • 1st Battery New Hampshire Light Artillery: At Potomac Creek, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Lieutenant Frederick M. Edgell’s battery supported First Division, First Corps.
  • Battery A, New Jersey Light Artillery: At White Oak Church, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrott rifles.  Captain William Hexamer’s battery was, same as the New Jersey Brigade, part of First Division, Sixth Corps.
  • Battery B, New Jersey Light Artillery: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles.  Commanded by Captain A. Judson Clark, Battery B supported Third Corps.

Rifles… rifled guns.  And we see empty columns on the smoothbore ammunition section:


Somewhat interesting breakdown for the rifled projectiles.  First section of those columns listed Hotchkiss patent projectiles:


For the New Hampshire battery, and them only, we see 3-inch Hotchkiss types – 90 canister, 182 percussion shell, 228 fuse shell, and 340 bullet shell.

Now over to the Parrott and first half of the Schenkl patent columns:


Only the New Jersey batteries reported quantities on this side of the line:

  • Battery A: 10-pdr Parrott patent – 410 shell, 360 case, and 134 canister.  Also 70 10-pdr Parrott shot, made to Schenkl’s patent.
  • Battery B: 10-pdr Parrott patent – 530 shell, 340 case, and 146 canister.

Looking across to the other Schenkl columns:


More listings:

  • New Hampshire Battery: 70 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery A, New Jersey: 120 Schenkl shells for Parrott 10-pdr.
  • Battery B, New Jersey: 160 Schenkl shells for Parrott 10-pdr.

We might raise an eye at the mix of Schenkl with the Hotchkiss and Parrott patent projectiles. But nothing out of the ordinary.  Actually these three batteries seem to have a clean allocation compared to some we’ve seen.

Down to the small arms:


By battery:

  • New Hampshire: 39 Navy revolvers and 12 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery A, New Jersey: 15 Army revolvers and 123 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B, New Jersey: 18 Navy revolvers and 17 horse artillery sabers.

Not a lot of question marks or even remarks to add with respect to these three batteries.

Next up… a lot of New York batteries!

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Missouri’s Second Regiment and Militia

The first half of the Missouri entries on the Fourth Quarter, 1862 Summary Statements offered no small number of questions and gaps to fill.  The second half of the entries offer, what I think, are the widest gaps in any section of the summary.  There’s just no getting around the need for conjecture during the examination.  One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, has aided me greatly in the effort to properly identify and match these entries to batteries.  But in the interest of keeping the level of conjecture down to the minimum, allow me to first present those entries “as is” for review.

Here is the first page of those entries:


Four entries with three different originating sources – The 2nd Missouri Light Artillery Regiment, a “1st Battery” of some unstated formation, and two from the militia (the Missouri State Militia).  Two of these lines are relatively easy to link with Official Reports.  The other two are lacking details needed for such positive identification.  Furthermore, we are missing most of the 2nd Regiment.  For now, let us table those discussions and look at the numbers on the paper.

Looking strictly at those entries, without attempting to interpret further, we have:

  • Battery M, 2nd Missouri: At Pilot Knob, Missouri reporting a regulation “mixed” battery of four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  The battery was commanded by Captain Gustave Stange and assigned to the 2nd Division Army of Southeast Missouri. The battery was at St. Louis at the end of 1862, but moved to Pilot Knob later in the spring.  Note the report received date of April 1863.
  • 1st Battery:  No location indicated.  Three 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  We’ll discuss the question mark over this entry below.
  • 1st Battery Artillery, Militia (1st Militia Battery): Reporting at Warrensburg, Missouri (in April 1864!) with three 6-pdr field guns.  Just working from the designation, this would be Captain Albert Wachsman’s battery which was at the time stationed in the Central District of Missouri.  But let us mark the identification as tentative and discuss below.
  • 2nd Battery Artillery, Militia (2nd Militia Battery): Reporting at Jefferson City, Missouri with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  And we’ll also discuss the organization below.

Turning now to the ammunition reported, we start with the smootbore calibers:


By battery:

  • Battery M, 2nd Missouri: 6-pdr field guns – 502 shot, 165 case, and 53 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 92 shell, 120 case, and 24 canister.
  • 1st Battery:  6-pdr field guns – 75 shot, 201 case, and 48 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 70 shell and 48 case;  And… oh by the way, 26 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
  • 1st Militia Battery:  6-pdr field guns – 294 shot, 134 case, and 168 canister.
  • 2nd Militia Battery:  12-pdr mountain howitzer – 113 case and 16 canister.

Not a lot of rifled weapons among the four reporting batteries.  The only entries are under Parrott and Schenkl patents:


And only for the 2nd Militia. Of Parrott patent type, 245 10-pdr shells and 80 10-pdr canister.  Also 108 (?) Schenkl shot, for Parrott 10-pdrs.

Lastly, small arms:


  • Battery M, 2nd Missouri: 30 Army revolvers and 68 cavalry sabers.
  • 1st Battery: 20 Army revolvers and 71 cavalry sabers.
  • 1st Militia Battery: 60 percussion pistols and 10 cavalry sabers.
  • 2nd Militia Battery: 20 Navy revolvers, 23 cavalry sabers, and 51 foot artillery swords.

With those remarks entered into the “record” let us attempt to fill in some of the gaps.

Firstly, some clarification about the 2nd Missouri Regiment of Light artillery.  As with any regiment, the allocation was twelve lettered batteries (A through I, skipping J, thence K to M).   The 2nd Missouri was organized from from batteries assigned to the US Reserve Corps (a volunteer formation, but raised with the expectation of service only in Missouri).  Formally designated the 2nd Missouri in the fall of 1861, the regiment’s primary duty up to the summer of 1863 was defending St. Louis, as part of the garrison assigned there.  And, as one might guess, many of those batteries were assigned equipment from the garrison, be that heavy or light artillery.  Such would explain the lack of reports, since that equipment would be reported by the garrison’s ordnance officer on a separate set of documents.  However there were exceptions based on situations of war.  Battery M was one of those.  That all said, for the sake of complete coverage here allow me to list the elements of the 2nd Missouri by battery and their assignments for the end of 1862:

  • Battery A: District of Rolla, at Rolla.
  • Battery B: Garrison of St. Louis.
  • Battery C: District of Rollla, at Hartville.
  • Battery D: Garrison at Cape Girardeau.
  • Battery E: Garrison of St. Louis.
  • Battery F:  District of Rolla, at Hartville.
  • Battery G: District of Rolla, at Rolla.
  • Battery H: Garrison of St. Louis.
  • Battery I: Garrison of St. Louis.
  • Battery K: Garrison of St. Louis.
  • Battery L: District of Rolla, at Hartville.
  • Battery M: Department of Southeast Missouri.

Other than Battery M, the details of the individual battery equipment is a misty subject.

The militia batteries present yet another series of gaps.  Before proceeding too far, we must remember that there was not just one militia formation in Missouri during the war.  In fact, it is a deep and complicated subject.  For a short premier, there is a helpful page offered by the St. Louis Public Library.  I think one important aspect to consider about those various militia, volunteer, and guard formations is if they qualified for a Federal pension.  Short explanation here, which is fought with holes and slippery slopes, is that if the members qualified for a pension, then likely the battery was “in” the Army service at some point during the war – be that in an emergency or as part of an organized garrison formation.  Otherwise, the unit was unlikely to be a formal part of the Federal organization… and thus would likely not supply an ordnance report to Washington.  Not perfect logic, but that does narrow things down a bit.  But I think we can focus, given that logic, specifically on the Missouri State Militia (3 years), commonly referred to by the abbreviation MSM.

As the St. Louis Public Library page indicates, the MSM included two batteries.  Oh, but that’s just simplifying things.  When formed during the first half of 1862, those “batteries” included “companies” which may have been a reference to separate sections, as organized or deployed.  Enough to split the hairs of hairs.  Wachsman, mentioned above, commanded one battery which was reported at Jefferson City in December 1862.  Another battery was assigned to Independence.  (And I think we take the reported location from the summary with a grain of salt, based on the belated receipt in Washington…. however, I’m leaning towards this being a transcription error in which the clerk transposed the locations of 1st and 2nd Batteries MSM.).

Now… about those cannons…. Wachsman was particularly fond of a set of English 2.9-inch rifled guns in his battery.  And I’m very sure Wachsman had those rifles with him in December 1862.  The only thing close to those weapons in the summary are the four 10-pdr Parrotts indicated for 2nd Battery MSM.  As we’ve seen in the past with the Woodruff guns, when presented with a square peg and only round holes, the clerks tended to find a place to enumerate the tallies.  What is the difference, from the clerk’s side of the desk, between a 2.9-inch caliber 10-pdr Parrott and a 2.9-inch Blakely, for instance?  And, compounding the confusion, maybe the clerk flipped the entries for the 1st and 2nd batteries?

Oh, and speaking of Woodruff guns, there should be entries for those also.  Captain Horace M. Johnson commanded a battery of the MSM which also should be on our “list” above.  Johnson’s men crewed a pair of Woodruff guns along with mountain howitzers and 6-pdr field guns.  Johnson’s battery was sometimes referred to as the Saint Joseph Battery, but appears to have been formally the 1st Missouri Battery of Horse Artillery, MSM.  Later in the spring of 1863, Johnson’s battery was changed to a cavalry company (some sources say the 1st Missouri Cavalry MSM, others say 10th Missouri, and others just say unattached company), though apparently retaining the Woodruff guns.

Though Johnson’s might be a candidate for that “First Missouri,” I believe that line refers instead to the 1st Missouri Flying Artillery, aka. 1st Missouri Horse Artillery,  Pfennighausen’s Battery or  Landgraeber’s Battery.  That battery was assigned to Brigadier-General Frederick Steele’s Division in the ill-fated Chickasaw Bayou expedition outside Vicksburg, at the end of December 1862, and at the time commanded by Captain Clemens Landgraeber.  This battery would later become part of the 2nd Missouri Artillery Regiment.  The original Battery F was broken up (transferred to Battery D, 2nd Missouri, officially) in September 1863.  At that point, Landgraeber’s became Battery F, 2nd Missouri Artillery, often mentioned with the qualifier “New” in secondary sources to avoid (or create) confusion.

As you can see, there are still many gaps and questions about these Missouri batteries.  Unfortunately, these issues are not resolved with summaries from later quarters.  My home state’s artillery organization was an administrative mess.  What can I say?

Fortification Friday: Defilement of works by defining planes

Defilement, that is, by Mahan’s definition… as in constructing a work so as to protect against plunging fire.  You know, as we discussed last week.  Get your mind out of the gutter!

In his Treatise on Field Fortifications, Mahan offered a book example of how to build a defile in order to protect against otherwise dominating terrain.  The example used this basic diagram (which I’ve attempted to clean up a bit…):


Consider this a three-dimensional diagram, with “poles” and “stakes” extending upward from the points with capital letters (I’ve embellished in red).  At the top of the diagram are the dominating points of terrain, labeled “O”.

The defilement of a work is a practical operation performed on the ground in the following manner: –

Let A B C D E (Fig. 15) be the plan of a work, a lunette for example; and the points O, O, & c., the most elevated points of a commanding position in front of the work.  At the points A, B, &c., let straight poles be planted vertically, and on the poles along the gorge line let a point be marked, at three feet above the ground. Let two pickets be driven in the ground along the gorge line, and a cord a,b, or a straight edge of pine, be fastened to them, on the same level as the two points marked on the poles at A and E.

Referring to the diagram, we see those “poles” indicated – 5 feet tall at the points along the trace of the lunette.  Five feet allowed for a soldier to stand at the parapet, and have clearance to fire.   However, across the gorge (which, recall, was open for a lunette) Mahan called for a three foot measure.   Again, think three-dimensional here and put on those funny glasses so we can “get into” the works.  This is the “eye” on the drawing.  Oh… and do mind the difference here between “A” and “a”; “B” and “b”.

… Let an observer now place himself in the rear of a b, so as to bring the poles at B, C, and D, and the points O, O, &c., within the same field of vision.  Let observers be placed at B, C, and D.  The first observer now sights along a b, until he brings he eye in the position that a b will appear tangent to the most elevated of the points O. Having accurately determined this position, he next directs the other observers to slide their hands along the poles until they are brought into the same plane of vision with the point O, and the line a b, and to mark those points on the poles.  These points, together with the two first marked, will evidently be in the same plane, and this plane, produced, will be tangent to the highest point O.  It is denominated the Rampant Plane.

We see the points on the poles indicated with the short lines radiating from the “eye.”

Another way to define the rampant plane is thinking of it as a line of sight between two points.  These points being the three foot mark above the gorge line and the distant high ground.  So the line of sight starts on the interior of the works and extends through the interior of the works, out past to the high ground the enemy might occupy.

Having established some points to think about, Mahan began using those to frame up this defilement, by introducing yet another plane to consider:

Now if a point be marked on each pole, at five feet above the points thus determined, these points will be contained in a second idea plane, parallel to the first, and five feet above it.  This plane is denominated the Plane of Defilement, and the interior crests of the work are contained in this plane, being the lines joining the highest points marked on the poles.

Plane of defilement is sometimes shortened to plane of defilade (which sounds better for those with dirty minds).  The important aspect of this plane is consideration of the height of an extra five fight over the rampant plane to account for the height of the enemy soldier standing on that distant hill top.   Towards that consideration, Mahan elaborated:

As the gorge line is farthest from the heights, and the rampant plane ascends towards them, it will necessarily pass at more than three feet above every other point of the parade of the work; and the plane of defilement, in like manner, will pass at eight feet above the parade at the gorge, and at five feet above the highest point O.  A plane of defilement is therefore defined to be, that plane which, containing the interior crests of a work, passes at least eight feet above every point that the enemy can occupy within the range of cannon, which range may be taken, with safety, at one thousand yards.

Where that plane crosses the trace lines of the works, it is desirable for the parapet to rise to the same level… obviously.

This is common sense.  If one wishes to protect the gorge from enemy fires, then pile up the parapet a bit higher.  Well, recall we have some governing factors there.  One cannot pile the parapet up to great heights without compromising the close range properties.  Yes, adding a glacis will help to some degree.  But that is yet another large amount of earth to move.  Beyond that, there is a practical limitation as to how high parapets and glacis may be stacked.

Once again, something that appears simple common sense can easily become rather difficult to apply in real situations.  What if, for instance, the point to be defended is in a valley with dominating heights all around?  What is the engineer to do?  We’ll take up that lesson next Friday.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 25-6.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Missouri’s First Regiment of Artillery

The Missouri section of the fourth quarter, 1862 summary statement lists sixteen batteries.  That covers all of the 1st Regiment, Missouri Light Artillery as a whole.  It also includes bits and pieces of what would become the 2nd Regiment and some militia batteries brought onto Federal service at the time.  For this installment, we will look at the easy to interpret 1st Missouri Artillery.  And “easy” is a relative term.

The First Missouri Artillery had batteries assigned to the Department of Missouri, Army of the Frontier, the Army of Tennessee, and the Army of Cumberland.  Four of the batteries – D, H, I, and K – served together as a battalion under the command of Major George H. Stone during the Battle of Corinth, earlier in October, 1862.  However, the remainder were, as was common among the volunteer batteries, scattered around as needs required.

Looking to the first page of the summary, note the date which the returns were received.  This factors into my interpretation of some entries:


To help identify the batteries further, I’ll mention the battery commander for each, though it is not indicated in the summary.  That may aid the “untangling” of some of the organizational nuances of these batteries and answer some underlying questions:

  • Battery A: Helena, Arkansas.  Four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. This battery was part of the District of Southeast Missouri, but would shortly become part of the “new” Thirteenth Corps as reorganized under Major-General John McClernand.  It’s battery commander was Captain George W. Schofield, namesake of the post-war Schofield revolver and brother of Major-General John Schofield.
  • Battery B:  Brownsville, Texas.  Two 12-pdr “heavy” field guns and four 12-pdr field howitzers.  Captain Martin Welfley commanded this battery.  The location is certainly incorrect for December 1862.  Likely that is tied to the date of the report’s receipt in Washington – April 1864.  At the close of 1862, the battery was in Missouri.  Welfley took the two heavy 12-pdr guns to Vicksburg when sent to the siege lines in June 1863.  By September of that year, he reported four heavy 12-pdrs and only two howitzers.
  • Battery C:  No report. Part of the Left Wing, Thirteenth Corps in December 1862. Later reorganized into the Sixteenth Corps.  Commanded by Lieutenant Edward Brotzmann.
  • Battery D: Reporting from Corinth, Mississippi, with five 20-pdr Parrott rifles.  Captain Henry Richardson commanded this battery.  It was among those in Stone’s battalion earlier in the fall.  The battery would spend time in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps during the winter of 1863.
  • Battery E: At Fayetteville, Arkansas, with four 10-pdr Parrotts and two 3.5-inch “English Rifles.”  Several notes here.  First this battery was organized by Captain Nelson Cole, but by the Prairie Grove campaign, in the Army of the Frontier,  it was commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Foust.  Those English rifles were products of Fawcett & Preston in Liverpool, purchased by General John C. Fremont early in the war.  Like other Civil War ordnance “enthusiasts,” I class these weapons as Blakelys based on caliber, projectiles, and loose affiliation of origin.  By September, Foust increased the number of English guns by one.
  • Battery F:  No report.  This battery had also seen service at Prairie Grove. Captain David Murphy’s battery moved with a column to Van Buren, Arkansas after the battle.  From notes about Prairie Grove, this battery should have reported a mix of James rifles and those Blakelys (or Fawcett & Preston, as you may prefer).
  • Battery G: No report.  This is Captain Henry Hescock’s battery supporting Third Division (Sheridan), Right Wing, Army of the Cumberland at the Battle of Stones River.  Hescock was also the division’s chief of artillery at the time, and I’ve wondered if he performed both roles (division chief and battery commander) or delegated the battery to a senior lieutenant.  His official report reads as if he retained command of the battery.  The battery fired 1,112 rounds at Stones River, lost one officer and 21 enlisted men, and reported short 37 horses.
  • Battery H:  At Corinth, with two 6-pdr field guns, one 24-pdr field howitzer, and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Was part of Stone’s battalion earlier in the fall.  Commanded by Captain Frederick Welker.  Also part of the Thirteenth Corps in December, 1862.  By the end of the winter, the battery was part of Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery I:  At Corinth, reporting four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. I don’t know exactly when, but command of this battery passed from Captain William Pile, who went on to command the 33rd Missouri Infantry, to Captain Benjamin Tannrath.  Like the other Corinth-based batteries, Battery I was part of the Thirteenth Corps at the end of 1862, but being part of the reorganization into the Sixteenth Corps.
  • Battery K: Reporting four 10-pdr Parrotts at Vicksburg.  They might have wished they were *in* Vicksburg that winter!  Maybe the Confederates would have appreciated the loan of those Parrotts that winter!   Certainly this is a transcription error.  This was George Stone’s old battery and part of his battalion at Corinth.  Captain Stillman O. Fish had command of the battery, with Stone managing a “battalion” and later unbrigaded artillery at Corinth.
  • Battery L:  No report. This was Captain Frank Backof’s battery which fought at Prairie Grove.  They had four James rifles and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  By the end of the month, the battery was at Van Buren, Arkansas.
  • Battery M:  No location indicated, but with four 10-pdr Parrott rifles.  The battery was part of the Left Wing, Thirteenth Corps (soon to be the Sixteenth Corps) and stationed around Jackson, Tennessee.  Battery commanded by Captain Junius W. MacMurray.

MacMurray went on to serve in the regular army after the war:


And many of MacMurray’s papers are in the Princeton University Library,which according to the description “include quartermaster’s lists, invoices, and returns.”  Should anyone have access to those, I’d be interested if copies of MacMurray’s Ordnance Returns and other “cannon” related documents are in that set.

Yes, from the perspective of organization (and to some degree the armament), the Missouri batteries were one bag of confusing entries.  I’m making it somewhat worse by going beyond what is written in the summary. Thankfully, the rest of the summary, focusing on ammunition, is less confusing.  Starting with smoothbore ammunition:


These lines are interesting, if for nothing else with the inclusion of the 24-pdr unfixed ammunition.

  • Battery A:  6-pdr field gun – 400 shot, 308 case, and 188(?) canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 11 shells, 156 case, and 27 canister.
  • Battery B: 12-pdr field gun – 128 shot, 84 case, and 32 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 340 shells, 358 case, and 64 canister.
  • Battery H: Reporting nothing for the 6-pdr guns, but for the 24-pdr field howitzers – 109 shell, 62 case, and 66 canister.
  • Battery I:  6-pdr field gun – 169 shot, 437 case, and 222 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shell, 109 case, and 145 canister.
  • Battery K: 6-pdr field gun – 98 case and 28 canister.

Moving to the rifled ammunition, first we consider the Hotchkiss patent projectiles:


Yes, just one entry – Battery D had 38 Wiard-type 3.67-inch shot.  Yes, 20-pdr Parrotts had a 3.67-inch bore, nominally.

Lots of entries for Parrott and Schenkl columns:


By battery:

  • Battery B: 20-pdr Parrott – 291 shell, 75 case, and 111 canister.  With the battery armed only with smoothbore, this might be quantity under the charge of the battery at a garrison in Missouri.  Or perhaps another transcription error, putting the entries for Battery D on the wrong line?
  • Battery E: Parrott projectiles for 10-pdr Parrott – 420 shell and 131 canister.  Schenkl for 10-pdr Parrott – 133 shot.
  • Battery H:  Parrott for 10-pdr Parrott – 13 shell and 69 canister.
  • Battery K:  Parrott for 10-pdr – 175 shell, 350 case, and 120 canister.  Schenkl for 10-pdr Parrot – 100 shot.
  • Battery M:  Parrott for 10-pdr – 152 shell, 250 case, and 94 canister.  Schenkl for 10-pdr Parrot – 80 shot.

Continuing with the Schenkl entries, we have Battery M with 98 Parrott canister by that patent:


Now for the small arms!


Let’s see how those gunners were armed:

  • Battery A: 9 Navy revolvers and 35 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery B: 19 Navy revolvers, 52 cavalry sabers, 10 horse artillery sabers, and 8 foot artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: 30 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: 85 Army revolvers and 53 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: 5 Army revolvers and 45 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery I: 15 Army revolvers, 106 cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.
  • Battery K: 4 Navy revolvers and 40 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery M: 13 Army revolvers and 7 horse artillery sabers.

The 1st Missouri Artillery entries were a lot of “finger work” and research on my end.  And I am still not happy with all the validations for the batteries and their armaments.  I would stress again this is the “summary” reflecting what was reported from paperwork received at intervals in Washington.  We don’t know if one clerk did all the work… or if a team of clerks were involved.  In short, we don’t have a clear picture of how the paperwork was processed.  Thus we have to add questions about data integrity.

On to the 2nd Missouri and the State Militia batteries….

Fortification Friday: Relief of Intrenchments… talking elevation, not reinforcements!

Back from the holidays and getting back to the Friday installments with titles prompting double-takes from those with dirty minds…..

For the first three chapters of the Treatise on Field Fortifications, Mahan’s focus was on the construction and arrangement of the works without any detailed discussion of the external factors governing the layout of the works.  Yes, as if the works were build in a perfectly flat table top in conditions one would never see in real life.  But Mahan was writing a instructional text, so abstracting out reality for a bit was necessary to get the basics across.

Chapter four brought us to some of that “reality,” with Mahan discussing the impact of relief on the design of the works …. and that is “relief” in the sense of terrain elevations.   Sort of a new dimension to consider, beyond just horizontal and vertical, profiles and traces:

When a work is placed on level ground, it usually receives a uniform relief; but when the site is irregular, or there are commanding eminences within cannon range, a uniformity of relief cannot be preserved, because it might expose the interior of the work to the enemy’s view, from the commanding points.

Let us be fair, practical, and realistic here.  Excepting perhaps some seacoast defense, where field fortifications are not apt to be used, anything worth protecting with earthworks is probably within cannon range of some eminence or is sited on irregular terrain.  I’ve often marveled at the notion of “regular” terrain… as most terrain one will encounter is broken and, well, irregular.  So why call it irregular?  But I digress. The bottom line is that where the terrain did not provide a perfect, flat playground for the engineer to design his works, the earthwork had to consider those irregularities.

Mahan continued with the inputs needed to the fortification plan:

The plan will also be modified by the same causes. The principal faces should be placed as not only to guard all the points where an enemy might approach, but the enemy should not be able to take up their prolongations to obtain an enfilading, or a reverse fire upon them.  The position of the points to be guarded, and that of the commanding eminences, require to be carefully studied before adopting any definitive plans.

So… one should take into account these irregularities of terrain, in particular any place the enemy might gain an elevation advantage, before reaching a final plan for the earthworks.  Sounds simple.  But again we are at one of those points with military science where common sense sounds so simple but is darn difficult to apply.   Put yourself at, say, Harper’s Ferry with an adversary holding Maryland and Loudoun Heights.  Now try to apply the common sense espoused in the citation above.  Not like one can wave a hand and fix those problems.

How to remedy such sticky problems?  Some general guidance and “rules of thumb” to follow:

The only general rules that can be laid down, are to lay out the principal lines so as to obtain a direct and cross fire on the approaches of the enemy, and placing them, at the same time, as nearly parallel as practical, to the general direction of the crests of the commanding heights, in order that the enemy occupying the crest may have a direct fire along on these parts.

So this is some relief (the refreshing kind of relief, that is) to the poor engineer sitting in Harper’s Ferry.   But just a little.  By negating any advantage of flanking, enfilading, or reverse fires, the firepower arithmetic is simpler.  Though that still does not turn around the advantage of commanding heights, as Mahan spoke of next:

When the enemy occupies a position more elevated than the work, he is said to have a plunging fire on it; and when the relief of the work is so regulated as to intercept this fire, the work is said to be defiled.

I like this passage.  We see the problem defined and labeled as plunging fire.  Then we see the textbook remediation that can solve the problem… pile dirt higher!

Well not just pile dirt higher.  Rather think of ways to put dirt, rock, or other obstructions between the defender and any enemy on those elevations.  However, Mahan continued with a cautionary note that plans should not get carried away in this regard:

The defilement of field works is not indispensable to a good defense; nor is it generally practicable. It is, however, not only a conservative means, but it also inspires the assailed with confidence; for the soldier regards with distrust the strength of his position, when he finds himself exposed to the view of the enemy from an elevated point.

So call it an “optional” facet to the planning, but one that one should strongly consider picking up.

Mahan followed this up with a “practical example” of how to plan a defilement.  We’ll look at that in the next installment.  For now, consider again the play here of something sensible within military science.  It is very easy to stand at some spot and say “this is a bad spot as it is dominated by the high ground.”  But that assessment must consider that the defender of that “bad spot” was probably tied to that location by situational necessity.  It was, perhaps, a point of such value that the defense had to be made.  With that in mind, we really must be considering how vigorously and rigorously the defender worked to turn a “bad spot” into something at least a little less bad.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 24-5.)


Sabers and Swords: More on the small arms columns from the summary statements

Sabers… or sabres for you Anglophiles… are all over the place this season:


I will confess that edged weapons, be those weapons with actual edges or “energy powered” edges, fall outside my area of direct interest and study.  Still, I know enough to recognize that even in the civil war in some galaxy far, far away, there were various types of sabers and swords to contemplate….


Each with a form fit to function or user’s preference.  The same applied to those weapons employed in the American Civil War:


A “rough” copy of the plate from the Ordnance Manual, but you see the basic variation.  Swords have straight blades.  Sabers have curved blades.  Generally speaking that is.  The Ordnance Manual provided a description of the types, along with a limited explanation of respective usage.

  • Cavalry Saber – Curved blade, two groves (one small, one large) through the length of the blade.
  • Light Cavalry Saber – “This saber differs from that above in being shorter and lighter.”
  • Light Artillery Saber – Blade has one groove.
  • Foot Artillery Sword – Straight blade with two edges.
  • Non-Commissioned Officer’s Sword – “This sword is for the non-commissioned officers of foot troops.”
  • Musician’s Sword – “The same as the non-commissioned officer’s sword, without guard plate, and with a blade six inches shorter.”
  • Saber for Staff and Field Officers – Shorter and lighter than the cavalry sabers.
  • Sword for Officers of the Staff and Staff Corps.
  • Sword for Foot Officers.
  • Saber for Cavalry Officers – “… as the cavalry saber, or light cavalry saber, with gilt mountings.”

The manual provided this table with the particulars of selected US Army saber and sword types:


The 1862 version of the summary statements had but three printed columns for edged weapons – Cavalry Saber, Horse Artillery Saber, and Foot Artillery Saber.  I would interpret the Horse Artillery Saber as the Light Artillery Saber.

Later summary statements allowed for more diverse entries:


Yes, separate groupings for sabers and swords.  The printed headers allowed for American and foreign manufacture.  But notice that many of those were struck through by the pen, with alternate annotation offered.  The listings were:

  • Saber, Horse Artillery (struck through and replaced with Cavalry), American manufacture (also struck through).
  • Saber, Horse Artillery, foreign manufacture (struck through).  Assume this references the Light Artillery Saber.
  • Sword, Foot Artillery, American manufacture.
  • Sword, Foot Artillery, Foreign manufacture.
  • Sword, Foot Officers’, American manufacture.
  • Sword, Foot Officers’, Foreign manufacture.
  • Sword, Musicians’, Leather scabbard, American manufacture.

That last column begs the question: what self-respecting artillerist would brandish a flimsy musician’s sword?  With matching leather scabbard?

Another, serious question that comes from this defined array of edged weapons is how the ordnance officer inspected and “proofed” the arms.  The Ordnance Manual required the inspector to verify the saber or sword by comparing to the listed dimensions, weights, and pattern form.  Gauges and patterns were provided for measurement and comparison.  And the inspector reviewed overall workmanship of the product.  In addition, the inspector was encouraged to “break a certain number” of the brass mountings from rejected pieces in order to determine general quality of the lot.

That’s fine for the basics, but what of the weapon’s durability? The manual specified this test:

The blade is then proved, as follows: – 1st. The point is confined by a staple, and the blade is bent on each of the flat sides over a cylindrical block, the curvature of which is that of a circle 35 inches diameter, the curvature of the part next the tang being reduced by inserting a wedge 0.7 inch thick at the head, and 14 inches long.  2d. It is struck twice, on each of the flat sides, on a block of oak wood, the curvature of which is the same as the above.  3d. It is struck twice on the edge and twice on the back across an oak block 1 foot in diameter.  4th. The point is placed on the floor and the blade bent until it describes an arc having the versed sine indicated in the above table. After these trials, the blade is examined to see that it is free from flaws, cracks, or other imperfections, and that it is not set, – that is to say, does not remain bent.

The blade of the artillery sword is proved by striking each of the sides and edges twice on a flat block of hard oak wood.

When this was accomplished, the inspector placed a stamp (approval or condemnation) on the side of the blade, below the tang.

Notice that at no point in the inspection did the officer verify the saber or sword could cut anything.  It was assumed, by the Ordnance Department, that the trooper, soldier, artillerist, … or musician to whom the weapon was issued would put an edge on the blade.  This was a particular complaint of many in the cavalry.  Recall Whittaker wrote, “Sabres are issued blunt enough to ride on to San Francisco.  The steel is hard.  Grindstones are not to be found. The soldiers lose confidence in the weapon, and prefer the revolver.”

Scabbards also required testing:

Steel scabbards are proved by letting fall on them, from a height of 18 inches, an iron weight of two pounds, 1 inch square at the base: 1st, on one side, just above the upper band; 2d, on the same side, 6 inches from the tip; 3d, on the opposite side, just above the lower band. In this proof the scabbard should not remain indented. The nature of the material (whether iron or steel) may be tested, if there be any doubt, by using nitric acid, which will leave a black spot on the steel but not on the iron.

Next time you see a reenactor with a saber on his hip, offer to “proof” his scabbard.  Let me know how that turns out.

As for cleaning and maintenance, the manual was short… and to the point:

The iron and brass parts of swords and sabres are cleaned in the same manner as those of muskets.  When the oil on the blade of a sword is dried up, it will leave a spot which may be removed by covering it with oil and rubbing it smartly, after a short time, with a linen rag.

Again, the Ordnance Department cared little about the sharpness of the blade. They just didn’t want the weapon to rust.

As with the discussion of pistols, carbines, and muskets issued to the artillery batteries, I think we see some reporting a large allotment of edged weapons for operational reasons.  That applies, in particular, to batteries assigned non-artillery duties in the remote theaters and garrisons.  At the same time, some batteries simply had quantities on hand because that is what they were issued and maintained – despite the insistence by some that the artillery didn’t need small arms.